Winter, Thoughts, SkyeSarah H


Winter, Thoughts, SkyeSarah H

We’ve had a quiet New Year, just how we like it. We didn’t even stay up until midnight. That’s what the Hebridean air does for you.

On the first day of the year we headed out to Glenbrittle, to the Fairy Pools. It’s not very far from here and the forecast looked promising (for the morning, at least) so we packed some sandwiches and set off early. The mountains were still covered in snow and as we walked up the hills past the pools and waterfalls we realised that we actually prefer it in winter. Last time we visited was during a holiday in May on an unseasonably hot day. It was choked with visitors and the climb back up to the car park had been exhausting.

We got lucky with the weather this time. After the Fairy Pools we drove to Glenbrittle beach and arrived just as the heavens opened. Hailstones and winds battered the car as we sat and ate our lunch but the skies cleared again and we went to explore.

Joe is mesmerised by the sea; he’d chase the waves in and out all day given half a chance.

We stayed for a while and enjoyed the peace and quiet. A few other like-minded souls had decided to take their New Year’s Day constitutional on the beach but there were only a handful of people.

I recently gave Joe my rickety old Nikon DSLR camera. It’s good for him as it has a 35mm lens so he can use it as a point-and-shoot. He’s beyond snap-happy. We have hundreds of pictures of rocks (extreme close-ups), the headrest in the car etc. etc. But he loves it: copying Mummy and Daddy, taking photographs and pointing out opportunities.

New Year is, of course, traditionally more of a celebration up here than in England. I’ve never really been into it myself, preferring to stay home or at the very most venturing to a house party. No big nights on the town or city breaks. Instead this past week has seen us visiting the famous bridge at Sligachan and heading north to Staffin where the wild winds, towering cliffs and stormy seas make you feel as though you're on the edge of the world.

Returning to New Year philosophising: I do see the winter as a good time for introspection, for both looking back at the year just gone and for forward planning.

Resolutions – not so much. Why punish yourself when it’s cold and dark, when you’ve spent money on Christmas and the festivities have fizzled out? I try not to put pressure on myself about dieting or new exercise regimes, changes in attitude or spending habits. Instead, I think of things which will enrich our lives. This year I’d love to learn more about where we now live.

Joe goes back to school on Monday and I’m going to join the library. There’s also an archive centre on the site which shows exhibitions (the current one has old photographs of life here on Skye).

Being here, I’m aware that I know very little about birds. I spotted a cormorant at Staffin beach yesterday, but on our way home a man in a passing car stopped in the middle of the road and pointed to the huge bird of prey circling above us. He seemed quite animated but we had no idea what it was. A sea eagle?

So I intend to read up on native birds. I tend to lean towards botany; indeed, many previous blog posts have waxed lyrical about plants and flowers. But I rarely write about animals, birds or insects. And as Nature Editor of Creative Countryside magazine, it’s about time I broadened my horizons.

I do want to learn more about the plant life here on Skye though. Previous trips here, in late spring, have seen me taking endless photographs of ferns and bluebells, violets and orchids. But I want to know about what grows here throughout the year. Is there anything that can be foraged? Does the peat and heather hint at the presence of wild bilberries? Do blackberries grow in the hollows?

Astronomy, too. The skies can be so clear and starry. It would be wonderful to be able to identify constellations and to point them out to Joe. To maybe buy a telescope.

The community arts centre and theatre in town has a fantastic bookshop covering many topics including social history, nature, poetry children’s fiction and food. For a bibliophile like me it’s perfect, and most of the books have a Scottish and Hebridean theme.

Of course, beautiful books can be expensive so I’ll no doubt be using the library the minute I join. I did receive ‘Wild Island: a Year in the Hebrides’ by Jane Smith for Christmas and I’m looking forward to reading it.

I’ve also been reading fiction. I finished The Summer of the Bear, set on a Hebridean island in the 1970s, and on a recent trip into Portree I picked up an old paperback in a charity shop. Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart. Thornyhold is one of my all-time favourite novels so I jumped at the chance to read another of her books. It’s a murder mystery set in the Cuillin mountain range here on Skye, published in 1956 and is actually quite unnerving when read on a stormy night

In other January news, I’m gradually getting back into a routine. I’ve reopened my Etsy shop and am getting ready to write some blog content for a client and some articles for the magazine. I’ve had a bit of an idea for some drawing, too. I need to familiarise myself with the geography of the island and thought about buying a map for the wall. But then I thought, why not draw one? Pen and ink maybe. The more I think about it, the more I want to do it.

So Christmas is well and truly over. We’re staying warm, exploring, making plans. It’s good.